Middle School Counselors' Competence in Conducting Developmental Classroom Lessons: Is Teaching Experience Necessary?

Article excerpt

Is teaching experience necessary for school counselors to feel competent when conducting developmental classroom lessons? The study in this article investigated the relationship between previous teaching experience and practicing middle school counselors' perceived competence in conducting developmental classroom lessons. Results suggested that although teaching experience was significantly related to competence in conducting developmental classroom lessons, this effect decreased dramatically and became nonsignificant when school counseling experience was considered. Implications of the findings for school counselors and counselor educators are presented.

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The debate as to whether school counselors should have classroom teaching experience prior to obtaining school counselor certification has existed for many years (Baker, 1994; Olson & Allen, 1993; Quarto, 1999; Smith, Crutchfield, & Culbreth, 2001). Those who support a teaching prerequisite argue the advantage that teachers have in understanding school policies and procedures (Olson & Allen; Quarto), in being able to develop relationships with teachers and administrators, in being able to assist students with educational problems (Quarto), and in possessing classroom management skills (Olson & Allen). Those who believe teaching experience should not be a prerequisite for school counselor certification believe the requirement may prevent good "prospects" from entering the profession. In addition, prior teaching experience may lead to less favorable interviewing behaviors (Baker). For example, Campbell (1962) found that counselors with a teaching background tended to use advising, information giving, and tutoring much more so than those without a teaching background.

The trend seems to be growing toward allowing individuals without prior classroom teaching experience to obtain school counselor certification. Roughly 40 years ago, 33 states mandated prior teaching experience as part of their school counselor certification requirements (Dudley & Ruff, 1970). This number dropped to 16 about 10 years ago (Randolph & Masker, 1997). Currently, 7 states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming) require school counselors to have a teaching certificate in order to be certified as a school counselor (American Counseling Association, 2007). Despite this trend, administrators and teachers still seem to prefer school counselors to have classroom teaching experience prior to obtaining school counselor certification (Peterson, Goodman, Keller, & McCauley, 2004). Issues raised in past debates regarding the possibility that school counselors with no prior teaching experience lack knowledge and experience in school culture (Peterson & Deuschle, 2006) and classroom skills (Akos, Cockman, & Strickland, 2007; Peterson & Deuschle) especially seem to persist. Although both are equally important, the focus of this article is on classroom skills, or more specifically, developmental classroom lessons.

Developmental classroom lessons fall under the school guidance curriculum component of the ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005). Its importance is seen in the suggestion that 35-45% of total school counselor time be devoted to the guidance curriculum at the elementary school level, 25-35% at the middle school level, and 15-25% at the high school level (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000). Given large student-to-counselor ratios, developmental classroom lessons are an efficient and effective way for school counselors to meet the increasing needs of a maximum number of students (Myrick, 2002; Schmidt, 2008).

School counselors implement developmental classroom lessons in several ways. First, they may assume total responsibility for developing, organizing, and leading the lessons (Goodnough, Perusse, & Erford, 2007; Myrick, 2002; Schmidt, 2008). …